Bangkok is busy. Like, really busy.
New York City and London are fast-paced, but you haven’t experienced real rush until you’re near death in the back of a tuk tuk. The rules of the road are that there are no rules. The sound of motors whizzing by becomes background noise in Bangkok, where tuk tuks and motorbikes weave between cars into the wee hours.
Bangkok is also huge. It’s easy to get swept up in one area since getting across town means fighting traffic and heat. This is a town defined by neighborhoods rather than tourist attractions. Aside from visiting temples and booking day tours outside of town, the real magic of Bangkok lies in getting lost in the crowd.
I stayed in Bangkok for five days, which is considered long by most standards. After a couple of days in the hectic capital, most jet off to the southern islands or north to the mountains. People that I talk to either love or hate Bangkok.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I recognize the city’s charms: wandering down a random side street only to find the cheapest fruit smoothie in town, indulging in the Khao San Road backpacker hedonism, and eating delicious seafood at a roadside stand in Chinatown. I also see its flaws: the haze makes the sky a whitish yellow color, the lack of nature can be suffocating, and the traffic can make a trip across town an ordeal. But my favorite part about Bangkok is how it thrives at night.
By mid-afternoon the hostel is buzzing with drowsy voices as sweaty backpackers wake up from naps or from a long night out. Then, the real fun begins. Bangkok at night is a sensory experience. Smells waft from street food stalls. Colorful clothes burst out of of shops and market stands. The lights of Chinatown beckon hungry locals for fried fish and coconut ice cream.
For a night out, pick your poison. Backpackers head to Khao San Road for loud music spilling into the streets, drinks in buckets, and laughing gas balloons. An upscale crowd heads to sky bars for breathtaking views of the entire city. Expats head to local haunts for cheap drinks. Older foreign men head to Soi Cowboy or Patpong for things that I won’t mention here. Bangkok may not offer much during the day, but you’ll probably be sleeping off a hangover anyway.
Planning on visiting Bangkok? Check out this comprehensive guide for first-timers.
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